So, 3-0 to the second-half team. The complicated task of monitoring the teams was intensified by Welling selling out of programmes by the time we made it inside the ground but then made a little easier by Sir Chris’ decision to play two different teams – each a mix of the old and new – for the two halves. From my notes it seems we managed to identify eight or nine of both 11s, and I’m still waiting for the club site to sort out its link to the report on the game to fill in the gap, so this might be a work in progress, especially as one of the unidentifiables scored.
First-half team was Elliot in goal, Wiggins at left-back, Mambo partnering Morrison in central defence, Jackson and Wagstaff providing the midfield width, and I think Izquierdo and someone else in the centre, while Hayes made his debut up front alongside a lively but unidentified by me partner. The second saw Sullivan take over in goal, with I think trialist Andersen at left-back, Solly on the left, Doherty and Taylor in central defence. I think it was Hollands and Pritchard in central midfield, with Green wide-left and Benson alongside another guy.
The game itself saw Welling start brightly, hitting the bar and then their forward rounding Elliot before being crowded out. But aside from one bad slip from Morrison – which did coincide with a decent downpour - which nearly let in their guy. But that was as good as it got for them and their substitutions seemed to diminish their threat as the game went on. Jackson hit the bar from a free kick in the first half and one of a series of delightful crosses from Wiggins – which it has to be said contrasted with those that came in from Wagstaff on the other flank – saw Hayes decide to head back rather than go for goal. It might have been a reasonable decision, but you wondered whether the concept of not going for goal would have occurred to the absent Wright-Phillips.
Goalless at the break the second-half team began with a good deal more energy, which seemed to be down to the promptings of Hollands and the initial energy of Green, who was to provide a good deal of entertainment with his shooting, which ranged from the sublime to the awful. I didn’t really catch the first goal as it came from our guy robbing theirs of the ball and playing in an unidentified new boy to put it in the net. The second was as simple as it comes, with a corner seeing Taylor outjump and outmuscle their defenders and keeper to head it in. Then just as I was remarking to a friend that Green had faded after his bright start, he collected the ball and languidly sent it flying into the net from distance.
Game over and what did we learn? In terms of style of play, we put out two teams and both were straight 4-4-2, which left the impression that we’re not going to muck about with the system. We play this way and Plan B will involve changes of personnel, not formation. By mixing up the two teams we don’t know yet the key partnerships that Powell sees as first-choice, especially with Alonso not around yet and Wright-Phillips not playing. But reading between the lines – and ahead of further changes - I’d say if I had to pick a team to start the season we’re looking at Elliot and Sullivan scrapping it out to be number one in goal, with the former really the incumbent, Solly and Wiggins as the full-backs, Morrison or Doherty alongside Taylor or Dailly (if he signs), Jackson and Green out wide, Hollands and Alonso in central midfield, Hayes and Wright-Phillips up front. But that’s tentative at best, with no sign yet of Evina (unless he actually played) or Alonso (ditto).
Individually, for me Andersen impressed at left-back in the second half, but having signed Wiggins and Evina, and with Youga still a possibility, if that’s his position you wonder if that’s a priority for us (especially with Solly the only recognised right-back, in the absence of a name for the guy who played the first half). Hollands looked useful and made things happen, while Izquierdo in the first half (if it was him) impressed me by always seeming to look for something more than the safe ball. Hayes showed he knows his way around, but whether it’s a positive or a negative to see him make himself available for everything, including taking corners, remains to be seen. He and Benson did a passable impression of each other and as things stand the requirement of a centre-forward for us is to provide the best foil for Wright-Phillips. Neither is a real target man or especially physical, so how this pans out remains to be seen. And if the comparison is made on this game alone between Wagstaff and Green to play wide-right, Green clearly emerged the winner, not least because of Wagstaff’s crossing. Needs to work on it and continue to improve. With Green I doubt you have a lack of confidence, and if he can score goals regularly and provide the more genuine winger option with presumably Jackson on the other flank that looks good.
Best moment of the afternoon? Well, it ought to be Green’s strike for the third goal, but I’d give it to Sullivan’s auto-response to use conceding a free-kick. Standing behind his goal in the second half you realise he doesn’t stop shouting instructions to his defence or providing his assessment of situations, and a simple “fck off ref” might in another game have seen a yellow card produced but this time around just served as an amusing reminder where he came from.
I’ve had a final check on the club site and the link now works, so I can acknowledge that Taylor played the first half alongside Mambo, not Morrison, which means that Taylor made the howler and Morrison scored the goal; Warren played right-back in the first half, it was indeed Izquierdo alongside Stephens in central midfield, while Popo was the lively forward alongside Hayes. In the second, trialist Williams was alongside Benson and scored the first, while Davisson was the final missing player. But the wine’s out, England are still 1-1 against France in extra-time, and I’m far too lazy to make corrections.